Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Burning Love for Burnt Crumbs

Burnt Crumbs
8549 Irvine Center Dr. 
Irvine, CA 92618

Okay, I lied. In my last review, I said that was going to be the last of my birthday posts, but I forgot that I had one more place on my camera. It has become a tradition that my good friend Ozker takes me out to eat for my birthday. Since Ozker's hood is Irvine, and there's one place that's been sitting on my restaurant wishlist for awhile in that city, we headed to Burnt Crumbs.

Burnt Crumbs came across my radar, and my Instagram feed all of a sudden about this time last year. They had a viral hit on their hands with their Spaghetti Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I could not go on Instagram and not see this droll worthy sandwich mocking me for not trying it yet. Although the fervor for this sandwich has died off a bit, as the kids of Instagram have moved on to waffles on a stick, rainbow colored foods, and looped churros, I still had that spaghetti grilled cheese in the back of my mind and had to try it.

Burnt Crumbs started as the Burnt Truck, which was famous for selling sliders. Chef Paul Cao and Minh Pham merged their popular food truck with the guys from the Dogzilla food truck and opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Burntzilla in Irvine. I still haven't made it there, but it's on my list. You might be thinking that Burnt is a funny name for a restaurant, but it's an homage to Chef Paul's days in college when he would make fried spaghetti for his dorm mates. Something they requested a lot.

Burnt Crumbs opened at Huntington Beach's Pacific City just over a year ago, and this Irvine location opened in the restaurant-rich Los Olivos Marketplace, opposite the congested Irvine Spectrum across the freeway, about eight months ago. Joining Angelina's Pizza, Burger Lounge, Panini Cafe, and Puesto, Burnt Crumbs and its neighboring restaurants give consumers a chance to dodge the busy parking structures and the hoards of strolling teenagers of the Spectrum.

Ozker and I got to Burnt Crumbs at 5 pm on a recent early Wednesday evening. We were one of two parties in the restaurant, but it did pick up throughout our stay, with many people getting orders to go. Once you enter the restaurant, ordering is to your left at the register, and then the food is brought out to you. There are four communal tables inside and a load of tables underneath the patio out in front of the restaurant. Inside the space is nice and clean looking, with white tiled walls, a couple of flat screens, plenty of windows allowing a lot of natural light inside, and the centerpiece of Burnt Crumbs is the open kitchen, which allows for a fascinating look at how your food is prepared. Let's see if these sandwiches are worth all the hype they receive.

We might as well start with the sandwich which brought us here, the Spaghetti Grilled Cheese ($9). Unlike most of the Instagram-worthy foods I have tried, this one actually worked very well. It starts with a nicely toasted sourdough bread, which I detected a hint of garlic present with this bread. The inside features a gooey mozzarella cheese, which I've seen used in numerous cheese pulls. The spaghetti and sauce are done well, and it does not break apart and fall out of the sandwich like I was expecting. I loved the cheese and the spaghetti, but I wished there was more meat included inside the sandwich like maybe some halved mini meatballs or some extra ground beef like the spaghetti my mom used to make. Still, this sandwich is definitely worth a try, and not just for a good looking Instagram photo.

As much as I liked the spaghetti sandwich, this Crispy Pork Sandwich ($9.50) stole the show on this evening. The pork inside here was like very tender and flavorful carnitas and came with salsa verde, a chili lime mayo, and cracklings, which added a nice crunch. All these things worked so well together and created a Hispanic-tinged sandwich that I will probably get next time, but I'll ask for a little extra of the very well done chili lime mayo. Ozker kind of thought that the ciabatta used on this was a little tough to get through, and I have to agree, but I enjoyed this sandwich so much I'm willing to overlook that.

I was not expecting to see a Reuben ($10) on the menu at Burnt Crumbs, but here it was, and so I had to give it a try. They make their own pastrami, which takes 11 days to get ready, and then they pile it on some soft rye bread and add sauerkraut, which is also made in house, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese finish it off. This was a solid Reuben, but it was missing something for me. I think it might have been the bread, which was only lightly toasted, and I was not in love with the sauerkraut either. Not awful, but there are other Reubens I enjoy more than this one.

Ozker and I finished off our sandwiches with some Hand Cut Fries ($5). These were just as good as the ones that we had at their neighbor's, Burger Lounge, and I really liked those fries. These came out nice and crunchy, with an excellent garlic aioli. My only complaint with these is that they are really small sized, and I like a longer fry, but that's just me, and it will not prevent me from getting these fries again.

Katie had gotten into John Wayne on an earlier flight, so she surprised Ozker and I a few minutes after we had placed our order. She was not too hungry but wanted to give their Avocado Toast ($7.50) and Fresh Chips ($4) a try. Avocado toast is a pretty simple concept, and really hot right now. This one at Burnt Crumbs was done very well with a generous serving of avocado, and they made it their own by adding some light and fluffy ricotta to it. The bread was very sturdy and held up through the short life of this bread. The chips were fine but rather unremarkable. They tasted like regular kettle chips you could get at the supermarket, but these were bumped up a bit because they came with their garlic aioli, which made a great dipping sauce for these chips.

I have to admit that Burnt Crumbs did live up to their Instagram hype. Not only did the sandwiches photograph nicely, they also tasted good, which is what most of us want anyway. On my next trip here I'll definitely get that pork sandwich, but I also want to try their burger and maybe the fried chicken sandwich, which I hear is terrific. Service was fine on this early evening, and they got the food out in a timely manner. Glad I could spend part of my birthday celebration with my good friend Ozker. Thanks, buddy.

Out of five olives, (because this restaurant is located in the Los Olivos Marketplace, and Olivo means olive in Spanish), five being best to zero being worst, Burnt Crumbs gets 3.5 olives.

For more information about Burnt Crumbs, head to their website here: http://www.burntcrumbs.com/

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